Ten’s To See: ‘I Could Always Crack A Joke’ By Elsa Rouy At Guts Gallery

The work of London-based artist Elsa Rouy is rooted in lust, gore, and desire. Part of the Guts Gallery family of emerging talents, Rouy creates paintings and sculptures which use the body as a medium to embrace both complex and bizarre ideas of the self. Smothered in fleshy pinks and crimson reds, her most remarkable works feature grotesque figures, often mid embrace, with their rippling limbs in mangled formations. Intimate body parts exposed, with their frames splattered with blood, breast milk and other bodily fluids. Rouy has managed to explore womanhood in ways that prove raunchy and humorous, whilst also raw and inherently political.

As part of London Gallery Weekend, the artist’s latest solo show, dubbed I Could Always Crack a Joke, navigates ideas around sexuality, separation and dependency, with the artist appearing as herself in various, altered iterations. “A couple of the pieces are kind of more experimental for me,” says Rouy. [The exhibition] is not sexual as previous work. Some of the paintings in the show are, but the majority of them are quite serious, there’s a heavier tone to them.”

Many of the new works were created in a period where the artist was experiencing a great sense of separation in her own life. “I was having quite gruesome, strange dreams, kind of like fever dreams,” she says. Her uncomfortable visions came to be a reality through the artist’s latest paintings, which include self portraits with pained expressions, veiled by oily black strands of hair. Doubling as a study of Rouy’s own psyche, there are surrealist bodies that have faces clawing from within their bloody frame, along with other fluids gushing from various body parts. As Rouy points out, the women she paints are usually pretty, graced with an inviting, devilish grin. She was keen for these subjects to take a different route, one that feels sombre.

At the centre of the exhibition is a giant sculpture dubbed “Two Harbors Of The Hairdresser’s Daughter”. A homage to her parents’ former professions, two giant plaited hair falls lifelessly from the ceiling into pools of blood – with beaded gems frosting the twisted locks.

‘I Could Always Crack a Joke’ by Elsa Rouy is open at Guts Gallery until May 26, Unit 2 Sidings House, 10 Andre Street Hackney, London, E8 2AA.


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